Local Jerusalem barn artist Scott Hagan is exhibiting his work and technique at the Ohio State Fair this week.
Hagan, who painted logos on Ohio Bicentennial barns in 2003 for the state’s 200th anniversary, is teaming up with the Ohio History Connection to paint a mural at the Cox Fine Arts Center during the fair. The artwork will include portraits of Ohio natives General Charles Young and President Ulysses S. Grant, who was born 200 years ago this year.
Hagan works from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. It started on Friday and may end this morning.
“It was a four to five day project. It will probably take six days and many, many hours to complete. It’s a really big type of painting,” Hagan said. “It takes up the whole side of the building, so it’s just a really big chunk.”
Hagan said some of his pieces were on display at the fair, but he believes this is the first time he’s painted a mural as part of the fair’s festivities. He said the job has its share of challenges.
“When I paint a person or a face it’s always difficult because at this size if you don’t like the color you used it could be a two hour error or a half hour error. -day… just to make the improvements. That’s what’s going on here, just to make the eyes look good and the color and skin tones look good, and of course the scale of the whole thing. It’s just a tedious, slow project and that’s part of it.
“It’s interesting that there’s so much art here that’s beautiful from all over the state, and my canvas is right on the wall,” Hagan said. “That’s how I see work. The country is my canvas.
The mural was designed by graphic designer David Browning.
“This particular project was presented to me, and I’m just the ‘vessel’ to put the paint on the wall,” Hagan said, noting he’s honored to have been chosen. “It’s very humiliating. It’s nice to be, I guess, wanted in a way.
Visitors included Governor Mike DeWine observed and even taken a spin with a paintbrush.
“He had a brush and he filled in a spot,” Hagan said.
Hagan said DeWine was no stranger to his work, as he painted murals on barns at DeWine’s in Cedarville.
“The governor and I have known each other probably since about 2000. I’ve painted his barn about three times in the last 20 years, so we know each other and he liked the painting,” Hagan said. “He was always very nice to me, a very nice man. He seems interested in the project, so it was good that he could come to the fair and see it.
Hagan said Curt Fields, a portrait painter of Ulysses Grant, and a woman representing his wife, Julia Dent Grant, also stopped to view the painting.
“We had a governor there and a president at the same time,” Hagan joked.
He noted that his career started simply.
“It was just kind of an accidental career, I had just done a few paintings when I was younger, and I just wanted to see how good I could do it freehand,” Hagan said.
His distinct barn paintings would eventually catch the attention of local news outlets, which led to him landing more notable jobs.
“At the time, they were about to do a bunch of billboards all over the state for Ohio’s upcoming bicentennial, and they thought it would be a good idea to do barns instead. billboards,” he said.
“What’s nice about this particular project is that I’m indoors, so I don’t have to worry about the weather, even though it’s very hot in this facility,” he said. he continued. “When painting outdoors, the weather is the most important factor.”
He said a lot of his art these days is in school gymnasiums.
“Which I really appreciate. It’s fun to walk into a high school gymnasium and make it look a lot nicer,” he said.
A typical project takes him two to 10 days, depending on the size and details. His projects can be from 10 feet long to 150 feet. Hagan said photographs of painted barns often don’t do them justice, compared to seeing them in person.
Hagan added that another challenge is staying away from the fair’s food and entertainment while her family enjoys the event.
He advised anyone interested in trying barn painting to learn the basics of barn painting and maintenance.
“You need to know how to paint in general before you start doing any artwork because a lot of my work I have to paint and maybe fix the side of the barn first. A lot of people don’t realize that there’s a lot of prep work…before making a piece of art,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was doing at 19 and I’m self-taught. I don’t have a diploma, and here, I earn my living.
“Anyone who wants to work right now can get a job,” he said. “Any kid coming out of high school could start like me, start working. It doesn’t sound like something you want to do, but it’s how you’re going to progress.